Ed Miliband's interview with Russell Brand will appear later today. Photo:Getty
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Why Ed Miliband was right to be interviewed by Russell Brand

The Labour leader was interviewed by Brand for one simple reason: he's trying to get elected.

 

Should Ed Miliband do an interview with a publication that has slagged him off, saying the country deserves "better" than him? Should he do so despite a record of statements and actions towards women that are sexist and degrading? Should he ignore that it has, frequently, endorsed a way of doing politics to which he is firmly opposed? 

But enough about the Sun, what about Russell Brand? In both cases, there are risks as well as rewards, but just as the Sun's 1.9 million readers make reaching out to that paper, that Brand's YouTube channel has a million subscribers and a devoted following means that it makes sense for Miliband to do the same.

Of course, it may be that the interview turns out to be a car crash - the Labour leader has a tendency to pander to his crowd, whether that be on immigration or tax avoidance. The howls of the right-wing press are to be expected; what will trouble the Labour leader is if people to his left flank begin to probe into Brand's statements about women and his excessive personal wealth.

But who cares? Just five years ago Labour got their second lowest share of the vote since 1918. The Tories might not have won the 2010 election, but Labour certainly lost it. Labour's tent looks too small, not just for a majority in May but for the foreseeable future, unless its leadership can reach beyond it's traditional core. Even if it ends in tears, Miliband should be applauded for at least trying to turn things around.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.